‘Dad Bod’ – Read this guide to learn how to get rid of yours…
Dad bod. It’s time to go.
Over the last few years, the prefix ‘Dad’ has become associated with something bad…
Dad dancing, Dad jokes and now Dad bod.
I’m a dad myself and where I may not be ‘cool’, I’m certainly not resigned to a life of the negative connotations of being a Dad. Certainly not the Dad bod anyway!
I don’t want a Dad bod and everything that goes with it. I want to be able to play with my kids without struggling for breath. I wan’t them to be proud of me, not embarrassed. I don’t want to be ashamed to go swimming with them because of my lack of shape.
If you don’t either, here’s how you get rid of that Dad bod – it’s a long read, but it’ll take you through the steps and show how to get rid of your Dad bod forever!
Where does the Dad bod come from?
An observation I’ve made when talking to other Dads is many feel as though they’ve lost control. Their free time has been eaten into. They now have chores they didn’t used to have. As well a provider, parent and employee, they’re also a taxi driver and go-to provider of fun.
It’s like life has been taken away. Someone else is in control – your partner, your kids, your boss.
Then there’s the time of life issue.
Most of us will have children between out late twenties and our late thirties – right at the time when the first signs of middle aged spread start to rear their ugly head. The days of being able to drink 10 pints and spring out of bed the next day… Gone.
The days of being able to function on 3 hours sleep because you stayed out later than you had planned to… Gone.
The days of waking up with unidentified niggly aches and pains… Here.
The days of watching the number on the scales slowly creep up… Yup, they’re here too.
Don’t resign yourself to this though. It needn’t be this way. Simply being a Dad isn’t a one-way ticket to obesity and a stressed existence. There are things you can to to combat it, but it’s down to you.
There are some constants in life. As a father, a lack of time being one of them. This is where you have to up your game and carve out the time for yourself though. The time issue isn’t going away any time soon. You have to make it.
Be warned – this won’t always be easy. You may have to drastically rearrange your schedule or exercise when you just don’t feel like it. If you don’t like it, keep your Dad bod.
To help you get rid of your Dad bod, I’ll break the approach down and we’ll look at the three steps you need to address…
Each of the three are important. You can’t neglect any of them if this is going to work, so sit down, take a pen and paper and make notes and plans. To get the most from this article you’ll need to make a plan and a few promises to yourself.
How to get rid of your Dad bod in 3 steps…
Step 1. Eat like a responsible adult.
Given the opportunity most kids would survive on a diet of chocolate and crisps. Sounds brilliant, I know.
It’s not though. It’ll make you look and feel like crap.
As a parent it’s your responsibility to be a grown up and set an example. Showing your kids you eat well is a part of that. Your days of being able to live on burgers and chips and ‘burn it off’ with a game of football and a few push ups are probably over, which may go some way to explaining that belly you now carry around with you.
Start with a big win – increase your vegetable intake. As a guide, make sure 50% of your plate contains vegetables. You’ll know what they are – those brightly coloured plants you usually walk past at the entrance to the supermarket.
And no, carrot cake doesn’t count.
A plate should look something like this below – a good chunk of protein (chicken and bacon in the picture), with a high vegetable content (in this case onions, peas, courgette, broccoli and cabbage). On training days, I’d add a carb source like rice or potatoes to the meal too.
By the way – if you’d like to make the courgetti (courgette spaghetti) like in the pic above, you need one of these nifty little things. It’s a great tool…
Increasing your vegetable consumption has a double benefit – it reduces your calorie intake, increases your fibre intake and will dramatically increase the amount of vitamins and minerals you’re consuming.
Track your calories
This used to be a total pain in the backside. Today, with apps like My Fitness Pal (add me as a friend here), you can count your calories easily by simply scanning the bar codes or adding foods from their vast library of pre-inputted foods. It makes calorie tracking easy – even if it’s not 100%, it’ll give you at least an idea of how much you’ll need to eat/cut back in order to keep your weight loss going.
Finally, for the most part keep your food choices natural. Eat seasonal, natural and healthy ingredients. Do that 90% of the time and you’ll be able to treat yourself the other 10% of the time, no problem at all.
Step 2. Exercise with fat loss in mind
The good news here is that you don’t need to spend hours on the treadmill. In fact, running is probably the worst way to get rid of your Dad bod. Instead you should focus on a good quality strength training approach.
By lifting weights you are stimulating muscle growth, burning calories and also fundamentally changing the shape of your body. Typically, cardio exercise causes muscle loss, which is why marathon runners and endurance cyclists have significantly less muscle than say, sprinters, rowers and swimmers who do a lot of weight training.
Building muscle also increases your metabolism – muscle needs energy to maintain itself, which means your body will burn more calories at rest. This explains in part why athletes with a lot of muscle are able to eat so much food. Unsurprisingly, eating too much whilst not doing any exercise is a rapid route to a Dad bod.
The key is to work hard, but work sensibly and quickly. Intensity of effort is far more effective than duration, so a good 30-45 minutes is better for you and significantly more effective than an hour of low effort, low intensity exercise.
So what would a weight training plan look like?
I’ll make an assumption here – if you are reading this to get rid of your Dad Bod, I’m guessing you are at the start of your fitness journey and the gym isn’t a natural environment. In that case, we’ll focus on quality, not quantity.
At this start, the focus is on improving fundamental strength and exercise technique. Your workout needn’t be complex, it just needs to be balanced and challenging.
On your part, you need to be consistent. If you were a personal training client of mine, I’d be advising you to exercise 3-4 times per week. This doesn’t all have to be gym-based, but at least 2 of your workouts should be. The others could be anything – sport, cycling, running, walking. Anything that burns calories.
Each of the exercises below is a link to a video so you can see what the technique looks like. If you are starting off, aim for 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps. If you are unable to do pull ups, they can be made easier with equipment adjustments – ask a gym staff member or personal trainer to show you how.
Once you’ve mastered these basics, here are a few more advanced workouts for you to try – all of them will help you get rid of your Dad bod…
There’s a chance you’re intimidated by the idea of going to a gym. Don’t be – they are inclusive, friendly and have plenty of members and staff who will help you if you have any questions. Failing that, you could hire a personal trainer to put together your workouts for you.
Of course if you use a personal trainer, you can advance your training and fat loss significantly quicker because you’ll be coached throughout the process.
If you train consistently you’ll notice a rapid increase in your strength. Typically you’ll notice that within a month your strength will increase anywhere between 20-40%. After that the strength gains will start to slow down (not stop), but that is totally normal.
Your stamina will also increase as a result of the regular training. In time, you can accelerate your fat loss by adding sprint and conditioning drills such as the ones in the videos below…
These types of drills will really create a calorie deficit because they raise your heart rate quickly and are incredibly effective as a fat loss tool. The good news is workouts like this only take around 20 minutes to complete, so they are ideal for guys on a tight schedule.
This kind of training is called HIIT (high intensity interval training) and is the perfect cardio for getting rid of a Dad bod.
Step 3. Look after yourself.
This is something that seems so simple, but is victim to being trivialised.
If we go back to the 3 main steps to getting rid of your Dad bod, we see the following…
Often we’re good at the first two, but the third one just gets ignored when it’s EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT.
So what does recovery include?
- Stress reduction.
- Relaxation (yes, it’s different from stress reduction).
So let me break each one down further and discuss ways you can implement a good recovery strategy…
Stress is a killer. I’ve written extensively on it here. The problem is it’s often not taken seriously because we’re (especially men) liable to suck it up and carry on regardless, which isn’t a good idea. You ignore your stress and it’ll just come back to bite you further down the road.
Ignore stress and before long it’ll build up and you’ll have to release it somehow – that could be at work where you make a stupid decision or at home where you end up being a grumpy arsehole with your family. Taking steps to reduce your stress levels will help you and your family immeasurably. High stress levels and a Dad bod go hand in hand!
Stress reduction in three simple steps…
- Identify the source of stress – is it your workload, your social schedule, your relationship?
- Break the issue down – can it be rectified easy? Are you committing to too many things? Are all of them necessary? Can you outsource tasks? Do you need relationship counselling? How much can you take responsibility for?
- Take strides to reduce said stress. Free up time for things you enjoy. Schedule your work into manageable chunks. Avoid distractions to improve focus, making time more effective. Outsource your unnecessary tasks. Say no to social engagements if you need to. Talk to people who can help.
I’ve suffered from stress before – my old job saw me responsible for 15 gyms and over 100 staff. I was constantly ‘reactive’, having to deal with problems on the fly. It didn’t work for me and caused me major stress, so I changed my role and set up my business. It was the best thing I ever did.
In 2014 we had ONE free weekend between January and September, because we were busy with ‘life’ and social engagements before our second son was born in the October of that year. The lack of free time got to me in the end!
I’d be working all week, then saw my downtime eaten into every weekend. When I finally snapped we cancelled all but the plans we REALLY wanted to keep. Having the weekends free really helped me reduce my stress levels – I’d urge you to do the same. You need time to relax too.
A good stretching routine prevents injury, improves circulation and suppleness and prevents age-related loss of mobility. You need all of the mobility you can get when training to perform exercises correctly and prevent injury.
Stretching shouldn’t only be associated with exercise – you should stretch regardless. Working at a desk, driving a car or standing all day all have an effect on our muscles, so a thorough, daily stretching routine is a very worthwhile investment of 10 minutes of your day.
If you struggle to force yourself to stretch, taking a Yoga class or following a yoga video like the one below is a great alternative and removes the need for self-motivation from you. This one in particular is helpful and only lasts about 30 mins…
The most important of all the recovery blocks and the one we often struggle with as parents.
Sleep is so important because it helps us recover from exercise, repair our bodies, fight illness and infection, reduce stress levels and facilitate weight loss and muscle growth – all vital when it comes to improving health and changing your body shape.
I’ve got two kids and up until 18 months they were both TERRIBLE sleepers. Really, really bad. For 18 months my girlfriend and I suffered dreadful sleep, often operating on a broken 4-6 hours per night. It co-incided with me gaining around 10lbs of fat (which has now gone!)
I’m not here to give you parenting tips, so do what you need to do. However, I can give you sleep tips such as these…
- Get to bed around 10pm.
- Don’t drink too much before bed, so you don’t end up waking to go to the toilet.
- Don’t read your phone in bed.
- An hour before bed, reduce the amount of light you’re exposed too. If you have dimmer switches, use them. If you have lamps, use them instead of brighter, overhead lights.
- If you have an opportunity, take a nap.
- Take some ZMA before. This is the one I use…
These tips will help you sleep better, but only if you use them. That means you should exercise discipline around bed time – don’t stay up all night watching crap TV. Don’t lie away reading Facebook on your phone all night. Understand sleep is important, so make sure you get plenty of it!
There is much confusion around supplements, so to keep it simple I typically go with two…
Athletic Greens is the main supplement I take. It’s basically a 5-in-1, so it covers all of my basic supplemental needs. In one hit it’s a…
- Superfood complex
- Antioxidant Supplement
- Digestive Enzyme Complex
I like it because it tastes pretty good and saves me taking all kinds of supplements every morning. I’m all about simplicity, so having one tool for 5 jobs fits with me just perfectly!
The other supplement I take is fish oil. I don’t eat fish (allergic, not because it’s not good for me), so have to supplement. The fish oil benefits are numerous (too many to list here) so I’d urge everyone to supplement with fish oil, unless of course you are eating 3-5 portions of oily fish per week.
There are all kinds of brands out there for you to use, but at the moment I am using this one…
All too often we sacrifice our own relaxation for others. As a parent, sometimes you have to do that, but remember – you count too. You’re of no use to your family and you’ll be a pretty terrible parent, not to mention husband/partner, employee/businessman and friend if you’re constantly stressed.
Get outside – do something you enjoy. Reward yourself. I recently took up fishing again – I found a small pond a few minutes from my house. It’s totally secluded, so I head off there for 3-4 hours in the morning or evening, enjoying the countryside and the relaxation whilst catching a few fish.
Walking on the beach, in the woods or cycling along quiet roads also helps.
Maybe a bath is more your thing? Or woodworking? Art? Reading? Playing music? It doesn’t matter what it is, just give yourself time to enjoy your hobbies and relax. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and all that….
You may find playing with your kids relaxing – I do! Plus, I use it as an excuse to keep active…
As I’ve said before, a Dad bod isn’t something all Dads should feel resigned to. I don’t want one, so follow these steps and you’ll get rid of your Dad bod in record time!
If you’ve liked this article – do me a favour and share it with other Dads! Spread the word and let them know about it!